Helicopter Ballet

© Ståle Edstrøm | Dreamstime Stock Photos

There is a tiny lookout point near Camp Pendleton, just off of the 5 freeway as you drive between San Diego and Los Angeles.  The sign at the exit simply reads “Vista Point” as if you should already know what it is a vista of.  It is the ocean, of course, but it is unlike any other ocean I have ever seen, in person or in pictures.  Then again, I’ve only ever seen one ocean in person, but this particular piece of ocean is miraculous.  At any given time of day, the sun hits this body of water and creates a sparkle effect, sending shards of light reflecting in every direction.  The sky is a brilliant blue and at sunset it fades into a deep purple with hints of peaches, creams, pinks and oranges painted near the setting sun.  It is the same ocean that runs for miles up and down the coast line from Mexico to Canada and yet that specific turnout is the only vantage point that awards this particular view.  I was never able to explain the how or the why.

If you time it just right, you can spend an entire day at this Vista Point watching United States Military helicopters running drills from the rolling hills and jagged shores of Pendleton out to a battleship that they have stationed just a mile or two out to sea.  Three or four helicopters fly at a time, lowering ropes down toward the ship then seamlessly maneuvering their suspended cargo toward the shore.  They drop low to the ground, first releasing the crates and then circling back out to the battleship.  It is a ballet.  A carefully planned, organized and well executed ballet of helicopter propellers and giant wooden crates.  It would appear, from the distance of this lookout point, that there are no people involved, just machines.

The hum of the helicopters became a lullaby.  The mechanical drone, mixed with the warmth of the afternoon sun and the cool, wet ocean breeze often caused my eyelids to slowly lower as I tried to keep track of the number of crates that had been dispatched to the shore.  One, three, seven, fifteen.  Somewhere after that I lost count.  The smell of the salt in the air made my imagination whirl with the dreamy possibilities of what life could present to me.  None of which, by the way, ever came true.

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